Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

As homely as

As homely as

What comes to mind?  Apple pie?  Cup of tea?  Kitchen table?  I found Durrell's homely simile as charming as surprising.  And yet it looks obvious, doesn't it?Homely as a salt-lick.  See also our quote-woven bestellar love letter to this slim, lyrical classic of...

The threads of love

The threads of love

A simple yet rich metaphor for love, and I liked the multiple threads of different colours - the various skeins of mutual interest, attraction, affinity, memory and tenderness which weave between people as love grows.  And that pure gold running through it.I thought...

A nosegay spurned

A nosegay spurned

A touching simile to describe a young girl who feels rejected by the world.I was like one standing at the lane ends with a nosegay to offer to the world as it rode by.  But instead, it rode me down.  If only the world stopped in its tracks, leaned down and scooped up...

Soulless sparkles

Soulless sparkles

I liked this simile, likening a woman's eyes to those of a cat.   She'd got black eyes with no human soul in them, but sparkles instead, like a cat's eyes on a frosty night. See also our themed collections of quotations on both cats and eyes.   Source: Mary Webb,...

Simile of sin

Simile of sin

A pithy simile for someone sin-sunk, cleverly playing on the double meanings of 'raddle'.  . Soaked in sin like a sheep in raddle. Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 174Photo credit: Ian Stauffer at unsplash

Stillness on the soul

Stillness on the soul

A touching metaphor for stillness, not one of calm and security, but rather a stillness born of despair of escape. Then a stillness falls on the soul, like the stillness of a rabbit when the stoat looks hotly upon it and it know that there is no more to be...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

The Nile as sapphire

A fortuitous phrase to describe the Nile's blue tracery through a dry landscape, like a life-giving vein.

... the sapphire cleft of the Nile.


Source: Justin...

Ajax and Alamein

Logue’s rendering of Homer is powerful because he makes it immediate, either by transporting you through sheer force of description to the battlefield before Troy, or by air-lifting you in...

Girders like insect legs

An unexpected way to convey the chaotic structural metalwork of half-finished buildings.  From Rory Stewart's engaging account of his walk across Afghanistan.

'On the flat roofs of half-finished...

As purposefully as pikes

'Cutters of the river police smacking from wave to wave as purposefully and fast as pikes.  Once we gave way to a liner that towered out of the water like...

Remember, like it or not

Maxim Gorky's (1868-1936) childhood was scored with regular beatings, some life-threatening, by his grandfather.  His resilience, emotional as much as physical, is humbling, underlined by his capacity to see his...

Particles of human life

This week, glad to share fine metaphors both written by journalists. Here The Economist pays a suitably eloquent and moving tribute to Vasily Grossman's writing, capturing perfectly his skill in conveying...


Next time you feel stalled or blocked, think of it as a moment of suspension in a changeless sky, reassuring yourself that even the most changeless skies change sooner or later. ‘I felt...

A rolling boulder

Nanny Slagg meets an old man of the Dwellers, the humble people who live limpet-like on the outer walls of Gormenghast castle.  Here he greets the castle's envoy with the...

Unreel writing

There's something of fairy-tale magic in this idea of writing as a thread teased out from the writer's cupboard of experiences, unwinding like a ball of story silk. 

Simile of sin

A pithy simile for someone sin-sunk, cleverly playing on the double meanings of 'raddle'.  . 

Soaked in sin like a sheep in raddle. 

Source: Mary Webb,...

Irrepressible spirits

Mrs Delany’s triumph is that she conserved her spirit despite the strait-jacket strictures of 18th century lady-training and some crushing things arrayed against it in her early life.

‘She was somehow managing to...

As poor as…

Never thought of rats as being poor, but I like the simile, more compelling than the standard 'as poor as a church mouse'.  At least the mouse has a big...

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6


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